Google Search removals due to copyright infringement FAQs


What is a copyright removal request?

Copyright owners and reporting organisations that represent them submit requests asking us to remove material that allegedly infringes copyright or links to allegedly infringing material. 

How accurate is this information?

This data represents the information that people provide when they submit copyright removal requests through our web form. People may submit information that is inaccurate or fill out the web form incorrectly, and we're not always able to verify the accuracy of the request. For example, an individual who is submitting the request may report that they are based in one country/region when they really reside in another. The DMCA process requires a statement that the reporting organisation must have a good faith belief that the use of the content in the manner specified is not authorised by the copyright owner, its agent or the law. The submitter must also affirm under penalty of perjury that it is authorised to represent the owner of the copyright that is allegedly infringed.

At times we may display duplicate entries for copyright owners or reporting organisations. There are a number of reasons why this may be the case. For example, we may receive notices from different parts of a reporting organisation, copyright owners and reporting organisations may use multiple ways to spell their names, or reporting organisations may choose to reference member companies as copyright owners in some cases but not others. Reporting organisations and copyright holders may also change their names.

Why do you delist some URLs but not others?

It is our policy to respond to clear and specific notices of alleged copyright infringement. Upon review, we may discover that one or more URLs specified in a copyright removal request clearly did not infringe copyrights. In those cases we will decline to delist those URLs from Search. Reasons for which we may decline to remove URLs include not having enough information about why the URL is allegedly infringing; not finding the allegedly infringing content referenced in the request; deducing that the copyright removal process is being used improperly (see next FAQ for examples); or fair use.

Does Google receive inaccurate or intentionally abusive copyright removal requests?

From time to time, we may receive inaccurate or unjustified copyright removal requests for search results that clearly do not link to infringing content. An independent third party published an analysis of the frequency of improper and abusive removal requests in 2006. And a more recent study went into more depth about takedown processes generally.

Here are a few examples of requests that have been submitted through our copyright removals process that were clearly invalid copyright removal requests.

  • A major US motion picture studio requested removal of the IMDb page for a movie released by the studio, as well as the official trailer posted on a major authorised online media service.
  • A US reporting organisation working on behalf of a major movie studio requested removal of a movie review on a major newspaper website twice.
  • A driving school in the UK requested the removal of a competitor's home page from Search, on the grounds that the competitor had copied an alphabetised list of cities and regions where instruction was offered.
  • A content protection organisation for motion picture, record and sports programming companies requested the removal of search results that link to copyright removal requests submitted by one of their clients and other URLs that did not host infringing content.
  • An individual in the US requested the removal of search results that link to court proceedings referencing her first and last name on the ground that her name was copyrightable.
  • Multiple individuals in the US requested the removal of search results that link to blog posts and web forums that associated their names with certain allegations, locations, dates or negative comments.
  • A company in the US requested the removal of search results that link to an employee's blog posts about unjust and unfair treatment.

We did not comply with any of these requests.

What is the DMCA?

The DMCA or Digital Millennium Copyright Act is a US law that provides qualifying online service providers like Google with a safe harbour from monetary liability for copyright infringement claims. One of the requirements of these safe harbour provisions is that the service provider remove or disable access to allegedly infringing material upon receiving a request that meets certain requirements. In responding to copyright removal requests, Google complies with the requirements of the DMCA.

Do you only comply with the DMCA? What about other copyright laws?

It is our policy to respond to clear and specific notices of alleged copyright infringement. The form of notice that we specify in our web form is consistent with the DMCA and provides a simple and efficient mechanism for copyright owners from countries/regions around the world.

What is LUMEN?

Lumen is a project of Harvard’s Berkman Centre for Internet & Society. Lumen works with a variety of international research partners to offer information about the global landscape of Internet takedown requests. Lumen posts and analyses different kinds of requests to remove material from the Internet, including requests based on copyright claims. Lumen receives these requests from participating companies as well as from individuals. When we are able to do so legally, Google links from our search results to the requests published by Lumen in place of removed content.

Why do you provide data only for Google Search?

As the Transparency Report continues to evolve, we are always looking for opportunities to provide additional data. For more statistics on copyright at Google, see our 2018 report, 'How Google Fights Piracy' and our page on how we protect content.

Is the data comprehensive?

This data presents information specified in requests we received from copyright owners through our web form to remove search results that link to allegedly infringing content. It is a partial historical record that includes more than 95% of the volume of copyright removal requests that we have received for Search since July 2011. It does not include:

  • requests submitted by means other than our web form, such as fax or written letter
  • requests for products other than Google Search (e.g. requests directed at YouTube or Blogger)
  • requests sent to Google Search for content appearing in other Google products (e.g. requests for Search, but specifying YouTube or Blogger URLs).

You provide percentages to indicate how much of a domain is specified by copyright removal requests. How are these numbers calculated?

We estimate how much of a domain is specified by copyright removal requests by dividing the number of URLs requested to be removed by the approximate number of indexable pages that a domain has. This estimate may be affected by previous removals. The number of indexable pages is an approximation, so we use orders of magnitude (<1%, <10%, etc.) rather than a more precise measure. Deciding how to measure the number of indexable pages in a domain is challenging task. For example, a calendar with a 'next' link embedded in a web page could make that one page look like an almost infinite number of pages, which makes determining an absolute count impossible. Furthermore, the way Google sees a domain may or may not be representative of the actual size of the domain, given the characteristics of web-crawlers such as Googlebot and methods used to control crawling and indexing. We're experimenting with this approach as the basis for our report, and may use different methods in the future.

How quickly do you remove search results after a request is made?

We remove search results that link to infringing content in Search when it is brought to our attention, and we do it quickly. Our average processing time across all removal requests submitted via our web form for Search is approximately 6 hours. However, many different factors can influence the processing time for a particular removal request, including the method of delivery, language and completeness of the information submitted.

What is the difference between a copyright owner and a reporting organisation?

Copyright owners are individuals or entities that claim an exclusive right to the content specified in copyright removal requests. Reporting organisations may act on behalf of copyright owners to ask Google to remove search results that link to allegedly infringing content. They may or may not be the owners of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.

Do you inform users before acting on a request?

When feasible and legal to do so, we try our best to notify users to give them an opportunity to submit a counter-notice in response to copyright removal requests. For Search, it is extremely difficult to provide meaningful notice to website owners whose pages have been identified in copyright removal requests, because we do not necessarily know their identities or have an effective means of contacting them. If users have registered with our Search Console as website owners, we will notify them there. We also share a copy of qualifying copyright removal requests with the public site Lumen, where a website owner may inspect it as well.

Why don't you list all of the URLs that you didn't take action on?

Some URLs were reviewed as parts of other removal requests and may already have been removed.

Are there ways to appeal copyright removal requests?

If website owners feel that a link to their site was mistakenly removed due to a request filed against them, website owners can submit a counter-notification form and Google may reinstate the link pursuant to sections 512(g)(2) and (3) of the US DMCA.

What does the figure '% of URLs not in the index' mean?

Sometimes requests identify URLs that are not currently in our Search index. As a matter of policy, Google accepts and processes DMCA notices for any URL, even those that are not in our Search index. We may crawl the page at a later date so by processing URLs not in our index, we avoid a situation where a page appears in Search results in the future despite having a DMCA notice filed against it. 


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